Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Scrabble Enigma

Since childhood, I and my clan and many of my friends have engaged in Scrabble games.  And since time immortal we have done so on the old cardboard game board.  And what grand visits and conversations we had while doing so. 

Even though there are scores to calculate and record, a bag to be passed, tiles to be drawn, (and counted while doing so).  There is the to and fro-ing of the dictionary to look-up words like “cwm” or "udo" to see if such a bizarre combination of letters could really be words. 

And then there is the outrage of  “Roll up your sleeves for pete’s sake!…following by a gasp and sigh and then the concerted brainstorm among all participants to return the tiles to their original positions.   

And this is generally followed by a tutorial to demonstrate the difference between a sleeve roll-up and a sleeve-shove. 

And so we are busy, very busy it would seem, but still amazingly in the midst of all this other activity, the game goes on at a steady and stimulating pace.

And so when opponents come to visit, I say to them…
“Would you prefer to play on the computer or on the old-fashioned board?”

And for a very few times, they generally say “Let’s play on the computer -- it’s probably faster.  We won’t need a dictionary and no one has to do the abominable task of keeping score.” 
And so we go to comfortable chairs at the computer and Hub even sets up extra mice so each player will have their own. 

But this is where the insidious and mystical thing happens.  The participants seem reluctant to visit.  The game is played in some kind of reverent, or should I say, irreverent silence. 

All those things I mentioned previously (i.e. passing the dictionary round, drawing letters, counting tiles, sleeve tutorials, scoring, etc.) are not interrupting our game and the game is going smoothly --- but oh so silently.

Yet amazingly, either way the game seems to go as quickly. 

But when the grandchildren come, they like to play Scrabble and yes, although they be tied 24-7 to their electronic hand-helds, they shut them off, put them aside, and positively insist that we play on the board rather than the computer. 

And this is where, in the midst of some kind of magical trusting openness, I find out so much about their moods, frustrations, school, and their day-to-day lives. 

I think the silence of a computer-game is embedded in the insidious psychological effects of electronic devices overall.  But I am mystified, and as yet have not encountered the research paper that seeks to explain it. 

Perhaps you might?


joared said...

I have no explanation for the query you pose, but you have raised an issue to ponder. I'm pondering.

Roberta S said...

Hi joared, thanks for pondering. Now if we can just get a research grant to carry this pondering further.

I think it is something important that needs to scientifically classified and understood.